The Identity-shaping Power of Fatherhood

The Identity-shaping Power of Fatherhood

by Ty Gibson  |  February 3, 2014

“The Father Himself loves you” (John 16:27).

Fatherhood is an identity-shaping vocation. Whether he does so consciously or not, a dad tells his child who and what to become. The child is significantly defined by the father’s manner of relating to him. By his actions and attitudes toward the child, the father projects an identity onto the child so that he grows up to think and feel about himself according to the father’s enacted vision of him. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour, a bequeathing of character occurs in the fathering process. The child comes to see himself or herself through daddy’s eyes.

If a child is raised being told in words or attitudes, “You’re stupid, you’re lazy, you’re in my way, I can’t trust you,” the child gradually loses hope and motivation to be anything different. Unless the child finds a different defining influence, or outright rebels against the father’s vision, the child will inevitably become whatever the father projects. In a very real sense the father’s words act as scripting messages that inscribe into the child a storyline to be lived, a way of seeing and defining himself. As a result, an experiential course of enacted destiny unfolds.

The child will inevitably become whatever the father projects

On the other hand, imagine the effect of words and attitudes from dad like these: “You are intelligent, capable and full of potential. I know you will grow up to be kind and honest. You mean everything to me. I love you.” Unless the child chooses at some point to come under some negative influence or to rebel against the father’s positive vision, the child will become just what the father projected .

In a similar manner, but on a much grander scale, our heavenly Father’s words toward us operate as a self-fulfilling prophecy in our lives as we believe them. Faith is the means by which we place ourselves under the fathering influence of God. He speaks to us, and of us, according to the new person He knows we may become in Christ. As we believe what He says in His word, His articulated love for us begins to redefine us in our own eyes in a positive light.

In other words, I begin to believe that I am who God’s love says I am!

The Father lifts all the shame away from our hearts by declaring us innocent in His eyes. He “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). The context here is that God calls us righteous even though He knows we’re guilty, not to condone our sin but to restore actual innocence in us.

The Father lifts all the shame away from our hearts by declaring us innocent in His eyes.

God’s Word, the Bible, is called by Paul, “the word of faith” (Romans 10:8). Since it is God’s word, it is God’s faith we encounter in the pages. Said another way, Scripture is a faith text. It is filled with promises and declarations and a whole new storyline, first foretold by the prophets and then personified in Christ. Scripture—God’s “word of faith”—casts a vision of what humanity may become in Christ.

And what a beautiful vision it is!

God, I embrace You as my Father. Moment by moment, day by day, may I be more and more defined and shaped and remade by Your faithful love.

Ty Gibson Co-Director
Light Bearers
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  • Amir Davis

    Thank you.

    Thank you Father in Heaven.

  • I used to avoid referring to God as father, because I had a faulty frame of reference, but I am thankful for his faithful fathering in the face of my ignorance.

    I am extremely thankful for Grace.

  • Brett Hereford

    Love hopes all things.

  • John

    My father always said, “You’re stupid and will amount to nothing”, then he would physically abuse me. But I know (intellectually) the “Father himself loves me.” This has been a battle for me. Please pray. Too much pretended goodness in church, I recognize it through my earthly father’s goodness “outside” the home. It seems to be a curse for me. May it be turned around in blessings and may I have love for others. I want to talk about Jesus, and all I get are smiles or blank stares. He’s my only hope, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! You’re ministry has been very, very helpful.

  • John, my heart is delighted to hear your yearning for Jesus. Yes, that is what we must remember because we have been adopted into the family of Jesus we are made whole. He makes us whole then redeems all our lost time for his Glory! How grateful I am today for a heavenly Father who has never given up on me!

  • Madison

    That was an encouraging article. I’m very thankful to God for giving us so many blessings we don’t deserve!

  • Stephen Hogue

    By beholding (the love and character of our Heavenly Father) we will become changed into His likeness! What a precious promise!

  • Ed

    Thanks Ty, very encouraging!

  • C.Brinkema

    Ty,that was a very powerful message. Hoe can I get a copy to send to my grandson?

  • This sounds like righteousness by grace.God’s righteousness, God’s faith, our healing. Thank you for that encouragement.

  • It is already April 2, 2014. Thank you Ty, I just read your article on fathering. You are much younger than I am, but I am learning to see our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through your eyes, as I read your books, and articles on “Light Bearers website. Thank you, again!

    God is so Amazing! I love, morning by morning falling in love with my Heavenly Father, and my own Jesus Christ!